Ben Bernanke received an unlikely defense of his work at the U.S. Federal Reserve by a top Mitt Romney adviser, who said on Tuesday that he should be considered for a third term as chairman.
Glenn Hubbard, economic adviser to the Republican presidential candidate, said he would advise a possible President Romney that Bernanke should "get every consideration" to stay on beyond January 2014, when the chairman's current term expires.
The comments may come as a surprise given Romney has said he would not reappoint Bernanke beyond 2014. Further, many top Republicans have blasted the Fed's aggressive policies since the Great Recession as overreaching and reckless.
"Ben is a model technocrat. He gets paid nothing for getting kicked around all the time. I think they ought to pat him on the back," Hubbard said in an interview, adding he has known Bernanke since they were "practically kids" and regularly speaks to him.
"I may or may not agree with him, but that's very different from saying I question his motives. I wish politicians would stop doing that," Hubbard told Reuters TV.
The comments from Hubbard - who himself was considered for the Fed chairmanship under former President George W. Bush, who ultimately picked Bernanke - suggests there is at least some support for the head of the U.S. central bank within the Romney camp as it battles to unseat President Barack Obama.
Hubbard was quick to note his opposition to some Fed policies, including the large-scale bond buying programs known as quantitative easing, or QE. He said a third round of buying (QE3) is unlikely to happen and would have little effect on either the economy or the bruising election campaign.
QE3 would probably only slightly lower Treasury yields, which are already very low, Hubbard said. "I don't think that's what the doctor ordered for the recovery," he said at the Columbia Business School in New York, where he is dean.
Yet with U.S. economic growth stalling and unemployment stubbornly high at 8.3 percent, some economists expect the Fed to launch QE3 as soon as its next policy meeting on Sept. 12-13. Bernanke could set the stage for a new purchase program at a speech in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, on Aug. 31.
But on the eve of the Nov. 6 presidential election, such a controversial move to boost the economy would almost certainly draw criticism from conservatives who already feel the central bank is an overly powerful agency that lacks transparency.
Paul Ryan, Romney's vice presidential running mate and a harsh critic of the Fed's ultra loose monetary policy, backs exposing those policy decisions to a congressional audit, and he supported legislation that would strip the Fed of its mission to seek maximum employment.
Romney has said QE3 would not do much economic good, and he too backed an audit of the Fed, though it is unclear whether he would want to extend that to monetary policy - as Ryan does - which could be seen as undermining the central bank's independence.
Hubbard, who was chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers under Bush, said Congress is right to consider forcing the Fed to explain policy decisions. But "the idea of putting them more under the microscope of literally auditing decisions - I don't think so," he said.